My exercise shoes have trekked many a mile since twenty years ago.

Twenty years ago, shortly before my 39th birthday, I started a regular exercise program. Regular. Exercise. Program. My activities were divided between half an hour on an off-brand in-home cross-country ski machine and occasional chilly laps, twenty or so, at the municipal swimming pool. Back then, I worked out three times a week. Three brief weekly sessions of combined Pilates/Yoga was added as a supplement on “off” days a few years later. On Sunday, I cleaned house.

This radical change in habits didn’t have so much to do with aging as it with wanting to live differently. A lot changed in the five years to come- -separation and divorce, leaving a huge volunteer commitment in community theatre for music performance, gradually leaving accounting to go full-time in a touring music duo. The next five years- -a new marriage, moving across the state, a more aggressive touring schedule.

Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have believed someone who told me I’d be totally out of accounting, indefinitely away from music and wholly invested in writing. Believe it or not, giving up accounting was scary. It was how I supported myself and, though I didn’t realize it until I quit, a huge part of my identity. I’d morphed from a suited, corporate auditor to a small business accountant in Levis, juggling as many as four jobs at a time. I was always that person who worked with numbers that most other employees somewhat feared. Accounting created the illusion of knowing secrets impenetrable to the normal human mind, as if I were some kind of sorcerer. I liked that aspect of the profession and did nothing to dissipate their perception of my magical aura.

Study question: If you don’t work with numbers, do you work against them?

What happened twenty years ago that I still recognize as a transition point? It was a writing research trip to southern California. I’d set a book in Pasadena and Joshua Tree, writing at a time when web browsers and internet content were wimpy compared to today. My local library in northwest Washington State didn’t have much on those areas. The bossy writer voice inside me said you need to go to those places and see them for real.

I’m a reluctant traveler by nature but two weeks later, I was there. To my astonishment, I secured permission to sit in on classes at Cal Tech, and a longtime friend who was an amateur astronomer hosted me at Joshua Tree for a couple of days, with lots of opportunities to view the night sky. The trip fell together flawlessly- -every time I made a request, the answer was Yes! I realized that people love to share what they know with someone who’s interested, not just the people I’d known my whole life, but people in general. It was a powerful source to tap. I realized there was more to life than the life I was living.

Twenty years ago, I decided I wanted to live differently. I couldn’t define what I meant by that at the time and I can’t now. But I do know, in that last twenty years, much has changed. Relationships, work, lifestyle. The changes were often disruptive and, at times, frightening, but, in retrospect, completely worth it. I have become, for now, who I believe I am supposed to be.


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